Earlier this year, my sibling shared publicly that they were enby. I admit, I never heard the term before, so I did what most writers do. I researched it. As the days progressed, my sibling posted photos of themselves with tags like #enby, #mensdepartment, and #womensdepartment. The waters were muddied, and I did not know how to tackle this subject.
I believed myself to be a trans-ally, but I was confused. What was enby?
I stayed quiet for two weeks as I tried to grapple with the meaning of it all. Ultimately, it took my sibling reaching out to talk to me. I sheepishly told them I was exploring the internet to understand what it meant. They explained not to search the internet for answers. There’s nothing wrong with asking them directly what it means for them, because as I would later realize…
It means different things for different people.
A quick Google search will tell you enby means non-binary (it comes from the letters NB). Non-binary equates to identifying as neither male nor female. Here’s a list of nonbinary identities, which isn’t definitive, but handy for helping define the genders. Enbies may not know what their exact identification is, early on. There is still so much to learn about the spectrum that is gender identity.
Many people will say that there is no such thing as non-binary. You either have male or female parts and that defines your gender, and some heteros and LGB persons may vehemently attest that transgender people are an abomination. From a physical standpoint, there are intersex people with both reproductive parts, and while it isn’t the norm, it does occur. So why should it be any different for the metaphysical?
Many indigenous peoples believed in more than two genders.
My family is from the Choctaw Nation, a tribe which defined up to seven genders. The idea of two genders comes from Western sensibilities, and over time, the acceptance of multi-genders diminished in the name of “progress”.
It’s time to accept that there are certain things we may not understand but should be willing to embrace. As a cisgendered white-appearing female in a heterosexual relationship, I will never completely understand, but I can be an ally for fair treatment and equal rights for transgender persons.
The enby journey is tough, and society is a large part of that.
They are often mistreated, misjudged, or simply ignored. In the state of Texas where my sibling lives, they do not accept more than the binary genders, so when they changed their name to reflect their gender, they could not change their gender.
But more than that, you can’t walk into a mall without seeing genders in stores, departments, and bathrooms. There are assigned pronouns (like with cars, for crying out loud), and the list goes on. Babies are gendered before they are even born. He and she is embedded in us before we know how to talk, and people are angered if another person misclassifies their child. So…
It’s natural that one of the biggest ways to show yourself as an ally is to reprogram the way you talk about people.
You may have noticed that since the start of this piece, I have not used binary pronouns, especially to describe my sibling. Until this point, you have had to accept that I have a sibling and that they are non-binary. In writing, it’s easy to correct the occasional foible, but when I’m talking about my sibling in a casual setting, old habits really do die hard. It has been my biggest learning curve thus far, and I continue to work on it.
It’s okay to make mistakes, though, and to own them, but for trans persons, you do not have to make a big deal about it when you do. They accept that this will happen. It’s hard to reprogram something you didn’t even realize was programmed in you.
So if you take anything away from my piece today, please let it be this: if you have a transgender person in your life, embrace the newfound freedom that comes from accepting something they have probably known for years. Support them and show it through the power of your words. But most of all. Don’t research the internet to find answers only they can provide. Simply ask them what it means for them.
Trust me, they want you to know.
This piece has been written with input from my sibling and faer permission to publish.
This piece has also been edited from its original form to remove words which have been deemed problematic. This list from GLAAD was sent to me by another trans ally following this publication. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and giving me a valuable resource!